Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin: A Casebook

Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin: A Casebook

Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin: A Casebook

Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin: A Casebook

Synopsis

General for the Series: The Casebooks in Criticism introduce readers to the essential criticism on landmark works of literature and film. For each volume, a distinguished scholar who is an authority on the text has collected the most elucidating and distinctive scholarly essays on that work and added key supporting materials. Each volume includes a substantial introduction which considers the key features of the work, describes its publication history, and contextualizes its cultural import and contemporary reputation while also surveying the major approaches which have informed the works critical history. A condensed bibliography offers suggestions for further reading. The compact volumes provide a critical survey and suggest provocative ways to engage with their texts. They are ideally suited to those interested in developing a deeper understanding of a works history and significance. Specific for this book: Most of the best criticism on Stowe's landmark novel is fairly recent. Until the combined impact of the civil rights and women's movements changed the focus of the academic ciriculum, Uncle Tom's Cabin seldom appeared in classrooms or as the subject of published scholarship. However, from the mid-1970 forward, the book has been widely written about and taught. Today, Uncle Toms Cabin is a stable, important part of the nineteenth-centruy American literature canon and has generated a rich body of new critical work. This casebook collects the best of the new scholarship as well as the most influencial older essays. Included in this volume are letters by Harriet Beecher Stowe and articles by James Baldwin, Leslie Fiedler, Jane Tompkins, Gillian Brown, Robert Stepto, and Elizabeth Ammons.

Excerpt

Elizabeth Ammons

Uncle Tom's Cabin has always stirred debate. When the novel came out in 1852, it enraged white Southerners, who called it libelous and Stowe a liar. in the Southern Literary Messenger, George F. Holmes accused her of vilifying Southern whites and planting “seeds of strife and violence” (Holmes [1852] 631), a charge he escalated the next year when he reviewed A Key to Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1853), the book Stowe published to defend her novel. Holmes exclaimed: “The woman’s rights Conventions, which have rendered the late years infamous, have unsexed in great measure the female mind, and shattered the temple of feminine delicacy and moral graces; and the result is before us in these dirty insinuations of Mrs. Stowe.” Most outrageous in Holmes’s view—and he was not alone—was a Yankee woman’s presuming to tell men what to think. He blazoned across the page these words from the New Testament: “Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence “(Holmes [1853] 322–23). No less incensed, William Gilmore Simms wrote of A Key to Uncle Tom’s Cabin in the Southern Quarterly Review: “Mrs. Stowe betrays a malignity so remarkable that the petticoat lifts of itself, and we see the hoof of the beast under the table” (Simms 226).

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